Translation commentary on Deuteronomy 5:8

For the words and phrases of this commandment, see 4.16-18.

The force of make for yourself is “make for your own use.”

A graven image, or any likeness: there is a small problem in the Hebrew text here that Hebrew Old Testament Text Project addresses. The standard (Masoretic) Hebrew text has “a [graven] image of any likeness,” that is, an image that looks like any being (in the whole universe). Revised Standard Version and some other versions follow the text found in many Hebrew manuscripts, a Qumran manuscript, the Samaritan, Septuagint, Syriac, Targum, andVulgate (and see Exo 20.4). In this case a translation like Good News Translation may be preferable, as the two phrases “an image” and “a likeness” mean the same thing. However, in some languages where there is no term for graven image or “idol,” it will be necessary to translate the underlying meaning; for example, “You shall not carve out the likeness of anything living in…,” where “likeness” means “the image of.”

Heaven will be translated as “sky” in many languages.

For water under the earth see 4.18.

Quoted with permission from Bratcher, Robert G. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Deuteronomy. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2000. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

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